Island Hopper: Rock on

Most people have visceral memories of important childhood events, almost like mental snapshots or home movies of formative experiences.

For me, nearly every vivid memory I have is accompanied by a soundtrack, like a flashback montage in a movie. I remember sitting in my room listening to the Beach Boys’ California Girls obsessively, for instance, because I was born in California. (Let alone that I lived there less than a year, I was very proud of my southern California provenance.)

At 10 or so I received my first LP — Elton John’s Greatest Hits. The cover featured a picture of a man with huge tinted glasses and a white ice-cream suit and matching hat. Now when I see it, my beloved Elton looks like a pimp daddy, but back then, to a budding thespian who never quite felt she fit in with the “normal” kids, this unapologetically flamboyant artist seemed like a messiah. That began a period of playing the album over and over on my turntable, trying to teach my parakeet to sing the “la-la-la-la-la” chorus of Crocodile Rock.

There was a phase where I couldn’t hear enough of M’s biggest (and only, actually) hit, Pop Muzik. Then there was Men at Work, Boy George and Culture Club, and, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show sound track — the latter of which I learned at a recent showing of the film I can still sing every line of, word for word, more than 20 years after I spent every single weekend at the midnight show dressed as Magenta. (Somehow the “cool” alternative bands of the ‘80s skated right by me as I delved into pop kitsch.)

I devoured golden oldies when my mom introduced them to me; went crazy over Broadway and film soundtracks; couldn’t believe how cool classic rock was when I discovered it — more than 10 years after its heyday.

In college a music appreciation course led me to the dramatic compositions of Beethoven and Mozart. Later I fell for alternative rock as bands like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains started to break. And then I discovered bluegrass and roots rock and jam bands when I was introduced to festivals, which gave me not just a fresh appreciation for live, original, organic music, but opened me up to a whole lifestyle and culture of music appreciation.

And yet somehow, despite the fact that I have very few memories that don’t revolve around music, it wasn’t until I started writing this column that I realized just how much I loved it — and how much I had to learn about it.

I wrote my first column nearly five years ago, at the end of 2002. And now, as 2007 draws to a close, this marks my last column for the Eagle. In a turn of events that fits right in with the pattern of my life, I am moving to Austin, Texas — for a host of reasons, but prime among them its vibrant, incredible music scene.

When I was first approached about writing a music/entertainment column here on Marco, I was nervous. I’m not a musician. I’m not a music theorist. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to give an educated opinion about local performers. So I had a little come-to-Jesus with myself and made this resolution: I would write the kind of column I, as an ardent music fan, but a layman, would like to read. If I could write up an artist in a way that, when readers went to see that person perform, they could nod and say, “Yeah, I see exactly what she meant,” then I was doing my job. I didn’t know the technical terms for everything the musicians were doing. But I did know music; I did know entertainment. And — just ask my mom — what I do better than anything on this earth is give my opinion.

So a second career was born.

Over the last years, I sucked up musical information like a Hoover. Some of the local artists were invaluable in educating me, answering questions, explaining to me anything I didn’t understand, and almost never making fun when I asked a stupid question or misidentified something.

Many performers and business owners helped point me toward new artists to review, or upcoming events, or special visiting performers I shouldn’t miss. They tipped me off to movements that were helping to grow the local entertainment scene — like Rod MacKenzie’s open-mike night at the Capri Fish House, or the one at East Naples’ Bayshore Coffee House, or the harp guitar convention in Naples, or the bluegrass jams happening every week at the Bean in Bonita.

I’ve made so many friends from the column. I feel blessed beyond measure (as well as a few declared enemies, too, who’ve helped me keep my feet on the ground and my mind wide-open). Most of all, I’ve deepened my understanding for and appreciation of music and musicians a thousandfold, adding even more depth and richness to my life’s soundtrack.

So thanks to all you musicians for your patience and your knowledge and your time. Thanks to the local business owners for your hospitality and welcome. Most of all, thanks to you, readers, for taking the time to read the column, to write in, to take a moment when I am out and about to say hi, or to pay a compliment, or to tell me how I don’t know my rear end from a hole in the ground. (Hey, even that’s a welcome learning experience.)

Though I’m looking forward to diving into the Austin music scene, I know part of my heart will stay here in Southwest Florida.

So I won’t say good-bye. Just, “Rock on.”

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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